A ruptured appendix at age 11 set Judy Smithson apart from her classmates. Her long recovery made her more aware of a peer using crutches and another needing a wheelchair—instilling a passion to help people with disabilities. She prepared for the work in ISU’s special education program.

Smithson ’62, Ed.D. ’80, started her career at the high school level after completing her degree. Opportunities to observe students with disabilities in the classroom, teach, and investigate services available while completing her master’s at Southern Illinois University prepared her for an ISU College of Education faculty position.

Federal mandates to provide accommodations resulted in the opportunity for Smithson to leave teaching and build what is now Disability Concerns. She was the heart and soul of the University office from 1978 until her retirement in 1999.

Determined to remove barriers, Smithson was an advocate across campus. She did everything from assuring residence hall accommodations to guaranteeing classroom assistance. She educated faculty and staff on needs and negotiated solutions, empowering students to gain life skills as they completed their education.

“My greatest satisfaction was getting to graduation and realizing I had forgotten a student was still on campus. They had reached the point they didn’t need me anymore,” Smithson said.

She is active on the Half Century Club committee and supports the University through the Dr. Judith Joan Smithson Graduate Scholarship for a student with disabilities. She and her husband, Bob Boehle, reside in Bloomington. They work with NuTran conducting research and traveling to meet with farmers. She remains active professionally as chair of Chestnut Health Systems, Inc., a position she has held for 28 years.

Smithson can be reached by email at jjsmith@ilstu.edu.